Whittier College, a prestigious liberal arts institution nestled in Southern California, has recently faced a concerning trend: a significant decline in student enrollment. As the campus buzzes with discussions about the possible reasons behind this downward trend, it becomes crucial to delve into the underlying factors affecting the college's appeal and explore potential strategies to reverse the decline. In this article, we will examine the current situation, analyze the challenges faced by Whittier College, and propose actionable solutions aimed at revitalizing student interest and restoring the institution's thriving academic community. Student enrollment fees account for the majority of revenue at Whittier College.
We found during our investigation that only 6 people are registered in Whittier College's mandatory freshman writing seminar last month. However, after a check this weekend we found that number had dropped to 5. A family member of a Whittier College faculty member had informed us of that 6 people had registered for the course near the end of April. In the course of our investigation we found that Linda Oubre had been attempting to steer Whittier away from being a mostly brick and mortar college to being a mostly online college in order to deal with the annual 7+ million dollar deficits. As it was she was struggling to hold off an expansion of the deficit which only existed during her term and considering the circumstances was able to hold the line until the Mackenzie Scott donation arrived and created the illusion of economic prosperity at Whittier College. The numbers for the INTD course that were available in April are in the image below. The updated number of 5 can be found here: https://cf2.whittier.edu/registrar/students/schedule/index.cfm?btn=&term=202309&searchTerm=202309&subject=INTD&courseNum=&courseTitle=&instructors=&partterms=&libEdCode=&openClosed=&meetingAfter=&endingBefore=&Search=Search&fbclid=IwAR1HtFIFnH3GD57bcJW7KeyycKev9kCpWttycosXerLb1Px4S1ZPtqXn2_8
One of the methods by which Oubre's administration had proposed to deal with both the deficit and the changing times was to switch to online modes of education. History and statistical information supports the concept of adopting more online courses as this will not only attract more students but it will also bring in more money but only if you have the right people curating the online programs. You need to have someone who has at least 7 years of experience minimum in the field of online education and recruiting for online programs. But for online programs to be successful, you have to extend your reach beyond just the local community. Focusing on the local communities closest to Whittier College works only for brick and mortar students. For online programs to be successful you need to go beyond local and beyond your state. You have to go not only nationwide but also global. You need folks who are highly experienced in recruiting online students from across the country and from around the planet. To get such people you have to be able to offer competitive rates in terms of pay and benefits. Oubre had the right idea but the program she created was and is being poorly managed. Whittier College can do a better online program than what it has currently. It has the people and it has the resources.
There has been a great deal of debate about why students were not choosing Whittier. In her state of the college speech, President Oubre said "Great changes at the higher education community has been anticipating for at least the past decade or here now. The changing landscape of higher education reflects demographic shifts, fewer high school graduates across the country and more students of color, as well as issues of affordability for all families, regardless of income or resources, new technologies, providing new ways of teaching and delivering education and an economy that means we will all have to be lifelong learners...Student markets are changing and to be sustainable, all colleges must learn to adapt and to meet students where they are. This is the key to our mission of student success. So how are we going to get there? Our sustainability and growth plan includes three main elements. First, we are reinvesting our core academic programs and focus on implementing new recruitment strategies that are closely tied to the local market and the growth in community college transfer students.....It's important to note that we are too dependent on traditional tuition revenue for our financial sustainability, especially as the traditional student market declines nationwide. Key to the second element of our sustainability and growth plan is developing revenue generating initiatives that attract the new growing markets of students.....To be successful, we must focus on all three elements of our plan at once, growing enrollment, launching new programs, and continuing to improve student outcomes and retention.... we believe the offering both a traditional oncampus program and options that provide for flexibility for students such as online programs are the key to financial sustainability in the future...." Our research revealed this was the right strategy for her to pursue.
In response to a question from the audience at the time, Oubre responded "Well, first of all, let me clarify some of the enrollment data that has been floating around. It's true that last fall we're at just under 1200, and that is a significant drop from where it was in previous years pre-pandemic. We had a significant drop in fall 2020 as did many institutions in the United States because of the pandemic, exacerbated in LA County because of the strict pandemic rules. Since fall, we have lost about 70 students. If you count the significant number who graduated in December, so it's not 113, it's actually more like 70 according to our census....A lot of the reason that we have not seen any sort of traction yet on the local market is because until last fall, we could not recruit on high schools and community college campuses. According to the health rules of the public health department, we were not allowed to bring students on campus, we could not do sleepovers for students, so we were really hampered. The other reason is what I said in my state of the college is the college over the last decade at least, was really looking outside of the local market and moved a lot of the resources." Our investigation found the last claim, about not recruiting local students was actually false. Whittier College, according to our findings, had always recruited students from the local communities. We also found that the places outside of Whittier that Oubre and the Board disinvested from were all mostly White majority communities. https://savewhittiercollege.files.wordpress.com/2023/03/transcript_whittier-college-state-of-the-college-address_2-18-2023.pdf
The Save Whittier College group responded at the time to Oubre's claims about enrollment. "uring a Town Hall for faculty and staff held on February 23, 2023, President Oubré shared a slide that showed unrealistic projected enrollment growth over the next five years and no strategy for achieving those goals. In fact, our understanding from the Town Hall was that the College has decided to purchase more student names (a typical practice in higher education) but not communicate with them until the summer. Most colleges have already begun their communication with students, starting this past December and January. We applaud that something is being done, but with limited experience in the enrollment area, throwing around investment without a strategy is very worrisome and makes the projections feel even more shaky." If true that would mean that Whittier under Oubre did not have a very effective recruitment strategy.
They further disputed Oubre's claims about disinvesting in the local community, "According to several people, including Kieron Miller, former VP for Enrollment, Whittier College did not disinvest in local markets. Rather, the College recruited heavily in the cities of Whittier, Montebello, East LA, La Mirada, La Habra, and other local markets. In fact, looking at publically available integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) data, the enrollment increases that Whittier saw from 2009, when new student enrollment was at 359, to 2019 when new student enrollment was at 493, came largely from increases in California enrollment. Miller has said that Whittier steadily expanded its California recruitment from 2015 to 2019 when he left. IPEDS data verifies that California market share grew during that time. This hardly supports the assertion of a disinvestment in California recruitment. Rather, President Oubré wanted to disinvest in out-of-state markets even though Whittier has historically done well attracting students from Hawaii, Colorado, Seattle, and the East Coast." Actual data available from government sources says that the Save Whittier group's statement was correct. Further we found that the communities that Oubre and Whittier College's Board of Trustees had actually disinvested from were all White majority and other non Black majority communities. For example Hawaii is a majority Asian state and by disinvesting in recruitment efforts there, Whittier seems to be saying they don't want any more Asians at Whittier College. The East Coast is a White majority area. By no longer recruiting there, the college is sending the same message about White students. This is the problem with wokism and extremist focus on DEI initiatives is that hose initiatives often back fire and lead to entire ethnic groups being excluded in the name of social justice. College recruit should be done on the basis of both merit and an intent to provide fair and equal opportunities to all students equally regardless of their background, financial means, or geographic location. For example we propose that rather than focusing exclusively on the local market that Whittier look at expanding its efforts into other states and countries such as Utah, Idaho, Texas, Missouri, Nigeria, Sudan, Indonesia, India. They might also try recruit from Europe, Australia, Syria, Israel, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Mexico, Brazil, and Argentina. Colleges are supposed to be cosmopolitan places. They are not supposed to be monoracial or monogeographic. It is a mistake for Whittier to recruit exclusively from Whittier only. More information below. In addition we also recommend that in addition to recruiting transfers from local community colleges that Whittier also put more resources in to recruit students from the ranks of veterans and currently serving members of the military.
There was a lot of back and forth between Whittier College and the Save Whittier College group which some of our readers are already aware of but those who aren't can find more information here: https://savewhittiercollege.com/home-2/letters/letters-to-the-board-of-trustees/save-whittier-college-response-to-president-oubres-state-of-the-college-address/
But first they need to address what is the real reason for the decline in student enrollment at Whittier College. Our research indicates a decline in student interest so we focused our investigation primarily on why student interest in Whittier College was declining. We found that Oubre did in fact try to address to the issue.
One complaint from would be students is the cost of tuition.
Here are other comments we found on reviews sites.
Whittier College on average charges $49,864 during the 2022 to 2023 school year per student. These fees accounted for more than 80% of the college's revenues which is where the problem currently lies because even the investment income will not be enough to overcome the loss of tuition and other student funded fees. Despite this decline in revenue, Whittier College under Oubre awarded students from different backgrounds over $78 million dollars in scholarships and freebies which the College did not have the money to pay for. This amount far exceeds the MacKenzie Scott donation. This factor may have contributed to over million $7 million deficits that Whittier College has had in each year of Oubre's administration as the College leadership attempted to retain student enrollment.
We found that the folks involved in the group Save Whittier College were also very much concerned about the decline in student enrollment but that they strongly disagreed with how the Oubre administration was addressing the issue.
While Whittier College tuition averages about $50,000 per year we found that is competitive with other top liberal arts colleges where tuition averages between $57,000 on the low end and as high as $64,000 on the high end. So when compared to say Pomona College, Amherst College, and Williams, Whittier College's tuition rates are a bit low for a high end college based on data from the US Department of Education.
According to transcripts of Linda Oubre's State of the College speech, Mrs Oubre stated, "we have seen enrollment drops due to demographic shifts and pandemic challenges, we believe that Whittier's location and academic strengths will continue to attract students who want to have an on-campus education. We also know that 85% of college students pick an institution close to home. Unfortunately, for at least the past decade, Whittier disinvested in the local market while it sought students from low growth regions outside of Southern California. We're working to rebuild our local pipeline for both high school and community college students." She also stated at the time that Whittier College was investing in advertising and marketing. How many of our readers here in Whittier know about the LUX program? The LUX program is the Oubre initiated online courses program we referenced earlier in this article. It's a new program that Oubre helped put together that makes online programs available to the general public for fee. The program actually has a great deal of potential but it also has its critics. One of those critics messaged us here on Facebook and said that all the LUX classes costs Whittier College over $1,260 to create which is not that much really if they are high quality. However some of the classes are over priced while others are actually under priced so looks like Whittier College is still figuring out how to do the online class thing. The limited offerings currently offer poetry, geneology, a couple of writing workshops. The program actually focuses almost exclusively on audio media composition which is a mistake to put too much focus in one area. With a lot more effort this could bring in significant revenue to the college but Whittier College needs to expand its market for the program from a local focus to a global focus. Online education programs are most profitable when they are open for everyone around the world to take. They could reach more students also by making them more affordable to students from more diverse economic backgrounds. This doesn't always require reducing the price you are charging for the class but rather alternative pricing such as allowing for installment payments. Oubre's citation of 85% of students choosing colleges close to home is based on out of date data from before the start of the COVID 19 pandemic which means her numbers come from more than 4 years ago and are not applicable today. I could not find any current data so it will be important for concerned alumni and employees at Whittier College to research the current numbers for this factor. Readers will find the full transcript of Linda Oubre's speech here: https://savewhittiercollege.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/03/transcript_whittier-college-state-of-the-college-address_2-18-2023.pdf The fact that each LUX class only attracted between 5 to 7 students is problematic and indicates a huge problem with how the program is being run. You need each LUX class to have at least 20 students in order to make it worth the College funding it. So far the classes being offered and attracting less than half that number. Whittier needs to improve on the classes and expand its offerings into other fields of interest such as law, journalism, teaching, sociology, and now the emerging AI economy.
At the same rally, Whittier community Leader and co founder the Whittier Consortium on Homelessness, David Gonzalez said, "it's not just our local young people that have been coming here for decades because of the relationship that we've invested in, not de-vested in, and we enjoy it. The students coming from Pico, from Montebello, from Santa Fe Springs, from all over the place, not simply Whittier. So, it is correct that colleges should be serving their community first where they are. And Whittier College has been doing that. Their countless projects and programs in this community. Recently, I can tell you from personal experience that HOT at the Hispanic outreach task force has benefited greatly, particularly during Covid, because of the relationship with Whittier College. How? We went online for the first time because we had to and we survived because of Whittier College. So, there is a deep, long connection with the community that we're very proud of. I think when you have a college like Whittier College in your community that is not a state school, it's a nonprofit, a 501(c)(3), that is reliant not just on money but on the relationships and the connections, the social capital in the region, the people in the community deserve something. Well, I wrote some down because that's what I do. I'm a teacher. We deserve an engaged leadership. We the community do deserve and engage leadership. And that's top to bottom. That might be a good use of top to bottom modeling, an engaged leadership. We deserve honest and transparent communication and processes." Many believe that the enrollment problem stems primarily from bad leadership at the college.
According to the Free Press, Whittier dropped from an annual average of 490 freshman per year to just 300 in 2022 and that this has left Whittier in dire straights.
The Save Whittier College Group initially had a campus email but had switched to a gmail account over the past few months. They said it was because someone had reported their Whittier College account as a spam account, a classic tactic used by people who want to silence the opposition or critics.
As you already saw, we checked several student review sites and found current students giving the College poor reviews and that these reviews were deterring high school seniors from considering Whittier College with many opting to enroll at other colleges and universities. High School seniors are avoiding Whittier College as if it were a plague unto itself. Current students were complaining about parking, housing, and tuition costs. One student complained that despite having a parking permit for which she paid a lot of money, she still has to park off campus. The parking complaint seemed a bit mundane and it appears that Whittier has been addressing the issue.
The primary issue seems to be with housing.
Images of the dorms online show dilapidated accomodations with rusty and leaky plumbing and live electrical wiring poking out of the walls, creating hazardous environments. According to Yahoo News and other outlets, student enrollment at Whittier College has plunged 35%.
In her State of the College address, Linda Oubre stated, “ Student markets are changing and to be sustainable, all colleges must learn to adapt and to meet students where they are. This is the key to our mission of student success. So how are we going to get there? Our sustainability and growth plan includes three main elements. First, we are reinvesting our core academic programs and focus on implementing new recruitment strategies that are closely tied to the local market and the growth in community college transfer students. Second, we are developing a revenue building initiatives linked to new technology, providing an affordable, high quality accessible education to a diverse student body. And third, we are developing a financial plan that leverages our strong liquidity and asset value while allowing us to decrease our debt and invest in our future. (07:24): Part two of our sustainability and growth plan, we believe in the value of the high quality traditional liberal arts education that Whittier provides. While like most colleges, we have seen enrollment drops due to demographic shifts and pandemic challenges, we believe that Whittier's location and academic strengths will continue to attract students who want to have an on-campus education. We also know that 85% of college students pick an institution close to home.”
In 2018 Whittier College had more than 1,800 students and was growing at the time. To cover the loss of students from the cancelled athletics programs, the lack of safe and adequate housing, and to the negative publicity the College has suffered over the past 4 years, Whittier needs to be able to recruit at least 8,000 students in and outside of the Whittier Area to its online LUX program to make up for the lost revenue according to financial analysts at Merrill Lynch and Bank of America who assisted Whittier 360 in crunching the numbers. Critics say it will be impossible for Whittier to do but it it is very doable if Whittier expands its horizons beyond just the local community. Whittier has the personnel and the resources to bring in more students than they have been for the past 5 years.
While some might blame Linda Oubre for the declining enrollment, we found that enrollment had stalled and begun to decline slightly in the two years before she took office but took off precipitously, meaning it got worse, during her presidency. So her policies did not start the decline but they did have an affect that steepened the drop in applications and enrollment.
Our investigation found that only 581 students in total are currently enrolled at Whittier College for the Fall. But this does not include information that we still do not yet have access to from the Whittier College admissions office. The 581 number is based on publicly available information from the Whittier College Registrar's website and may exclude data that is available only to the administration. So it could be as high as 726 students in total for all grades. Sources say that this means that enrollment during the Oubre administration has dropped by at least 55% and readers could see this in our last article on the financial situation at Whittier College. Whittier gets most of its money from students enrollment fees and when enrollment declines, Whittier's finances also decline.
In terms of accreditation, while Whittier College was reaccredited in 2022 what they did not mention is the fact that it was a conditional reaccredition that is dependent on Whittier passing a special inspection in 2025 which is less than two years away. The problem areas that the accrediting agency is looking at is the funding of several academic departments which were seriously underfunded in 2022 when the accreditation team first visited the campus and serious problems with campus internal communications which our previous articles have mentioned. In addition the accrediting agency the WSCUC is conducting a special investigation into how Whittier College has been trying to attact new applicants. In fact WSCUC will be inspecting Whittier College this Fall for a progress check on these problem areas and we have been told it might fail.
In it's letter to Linda Oubre, WSCUC stated that in exchange for accreditation it needed Whittier College to respond to the following issues. “The Commission requires the institution to respond to the following issues: To foster greater trust and collaboration, formalize practices to support communication and transparency among leadership and across the broader campus community...To enhance faculty and staff levels of satisfaction, retention, and engagement, work to address morale by reviewing current workloads and job scopes and planning for appropriate compensation structures..and the development of a strategic enrollment plan with adequate resources, clear measurable targets, and metrics to monitor success.” CAL_220711_Whittier_TPR.pdf | Powered by Box
Regrettably the communities closest to Whittier College are not producing the many babies. This is an important factor to consider when you are planning for how many future students you will need to serve. The population in the Whittier Area, LA County and in the State of California overall is one of population decline caused by both a decline in in migration and, more importantly, a massive decline in the number of women giving birth to future students. In fact, according to US Census data, the states with the highest birthrates are currently the White majority states of Utah and South Dakota and most of the babies being born in those states are in what is called the White demographic group. Other states with high birth rates are Alaska and DC. DC is the only place in the US where the non White birth rate currently outpaces the White birth rate. But the racial demographic is not as important as the cultural demographics as both Utah and South Dakota, not to mention Alaska have very different cultures and very different political and world views than Californians tend to have. In fact their view of how things are supposed to work is quite the opposite from what many Californians believe. Just look at how they view January 6th compared to how California's liberal majority view January 6th. The people who think January 6th was not a high crime but merely a riot of people who disagreed with government policies are the ones having all the babies. Based on this, people from conservative red state backgrounds will outnumber people from liberal blue state backgrounds by the year 2060. With that come shifts not only in which party has more registered members but, most important to our current topic, in the demographic background of students. This is because of COVID shift. What that means is that during the COVID 19 lockdown there was substantial shift in who was having babies in America. Before COVID most babies born in the US were being born to either Hispanics, namely Mexicans, or to Asians. Whites had America's lowest birth rate. This changed during the COVID 19 lockdowns. Birth rates among Mexicans and Asians has declined as a result of COVID 19 fear mongering and misinformation campaigns as well as lockdown policies. In the meantime those same factors have increased the White birth rate in traditionally conservative and rural states. This will result in a demographic shift that our educational institutions must begin preparing for now. That means that while many educational institutions have been shifting to Spanish, they will have to shift back to English in just a couple of decades to attract more student. We mentioned South Dakota and Utah. What we didn't mention yet, that is important, is that their reproduction rates are way above the rate necessary for simple population replacement. This is a potential market in the making for institutions such as Whittier College. Other White majority states experiencing an increase in White births are North Dakota, Colorado, Nebraska, and Texas. These future students are all coming from more conservatively religious backgrounds. In some of them, the clock on child support requirements actually begins at conception.
But at the same time, the countries with the highest birth rates are currently Nigeria and Angola which are both African countries. The population is currently growing faster in Africa than in even India. So we can expect a lot more immigration from the African continent in the next the 20 to 30 years. This in migration from Africa is expected to outpace even immigration from Latin America and China combined. Syria is another country with a rapidly growing population and a lot of Syrians have been either immigrating to or considering immigrating to the United States. The growth rates for these countries is: Syria 6.39%, South Sudan 4.78%, Niger 3.66%, and Burundi is 3.59%. The growth rate in India is only .81%. Whittier College should seek to attract students from these countries in the future as well as from the growing White states here in the US such as Utah, Idaho, and Texas.
We went so far as to ask AI about this issue and you can see our questions and the AI's answers below. According to the AI's, Bing, ChatGPT 4, and Google's Bard, the most promising source of new students for Whittier College are Texas and Nigeria. For the sake of transparency I am including screenshots of the research I did using Bing below this article.
It is clear that Whittier College has a serious issue when it comes to attracting new students. In this article we discussed the enrollment problems at the college and made a couple of minor suggestions. After a review of all of the issues we found there was actually not just only one factor but multiple factors that were suppressing interesting in Whittier College among prospective students. The following suggestions could help Whittier College address the relevant issues.
Addressing and resolving the issues and concerns raised by the negative student reviews regarding the state of on-campus student housing, fees, and underfunding of academic departments. The college should also apologize and compensate the affected students and families for any inconvenience or harm caused by these issues. The college should also invest and improve its facilities, services, and resources to meet the standards and expectations of its current and prospective students.
Reconciling and collaborating with the critics of Linda Oubre and restoring the trust and confidence of the college community in her leadership and vision. The college should also clarify and communicate its mission, values, and goals to the public and address any misunderstandings or misrepresentations of its identity and purpose. The college should also celebrate and highlight its achievements and successes under Linda Oubre’s tenure and showcase the positive impact and value of her initiatives and policies.
Differentiating and positioning itself as a unique and attractive option for students who are looking for a liberal arts education that fosters critical thinking, creativity, and intercultural competence across various disciplines and fields. The college should also leverage its strengths and opportunities in terms of its academic excellence, quality, flexibility, adaptability, diversity, equity, inclusion, global citizenship, social justice, location, financial aid, scholarships, alumni network, partnerships, etc.
Engaging and retaining its current students and alumni as ambassadors and advocates for the college. The college should also encourage and reward them for referring or recommending prospective students to the college. The college should also involve them in its recruitment activities and events as mentors, speakers, hosts, etc.
Innovating and experimenting with new and effective strategies and approaches to reach out to and attract prospective students from diverse and growing regions. The college should also monitor and evaluate the impact of its recruitment efforts using relevant metrics and indicators. The college should also learn from its mistakes or failures in recruiting students from these regions.
These are some possible ways that Whittier College can improve its enrollment numbers. However, the college should also be realistic and pragmatic in setting its enrollment goals and objectives. The college should also be aware of the external factors that may affect its enrollment numbers, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the economic recession, political instability, the environmental crisis, hyper partisanship, etc. The college should also be responsive and attentive to the feedback and suggestions from its current and prospective students and families.
The article has discussed the current situation of Whittier College, a prestigious liberal arts institution that has faced a significant decline in student enrollment. It has examined the possible reasons behind this downward trend, such as the leadership style of Linda Oubre, the state of the campus facilities and services, the negative student reviews and publicity, and the changing demographics and preferences of prospective students. It has also proposed some potential strategies to reverse the decline, such as improving communication and transparency, addressing morale and satisfaction issues, enhancing academic quality and flexibility, engaging current students and alumni, and innovating recruitment approaches. Whittier College has a rich history and a promising future, but it needs to adapt to the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century. By implementing these suggestions, Whittier College can revitalize its student interest and restore its thriving academic community.